Jimmie Johnson was on a roll on Sunday, holding the lead in 119 laps of the 334 lap AAA Texas 500 and taking the checkered flag. Johnson missed making the list of eight drivers competing in the Eliminator Round of this year’s NASCAR Chase for the Sprint Cup, but his win was his third consecutive victory in the AAA Texas 500 and his fourth in total as he had previously won the event in 2007, 2012 and 2013, each time for Hendrick Motorsports. It was also his fourth win of the 2014 NASCAR Sprint Cup season, his other three being the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway on May 25, the Fedex 400 at Dover Speedway on June 1, and the Quicken Loans 400 at Michigan International Speedway. Johnson’s victory on Sunday also means that none of the eight Eliminator Round contenders – Joey Logano, Kevin Harvick, Brad Keselowski, Jeff Gordon, Carl Edwards, Denny Hamlin, Ryan Newman and Matt Kenseth – were able to clinch a sure spot in the season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway on November 16, a situation which is likely to keep the competitive spirit at fever pitch.
Matt Kenseth set off in the lead in the AAA Texas 500, but Johnson dominated the race. He was challenged by teammate Jeff Gordon who took the lead for a time, but Johnson surged ahead after the caution flag on Lap 245. With the caution in Lap 260 Brad Keselowski made his way to the front, holding Gordon back for several laps. More caution flags resulted in Kewselowski dropping back and Johnson took the lead after struggling to get past Kurt Busch. In Lap 313 Kasey Kahne spun out, raising another caution, with Johnson reclaiming the lead only to lose it to Jeff Gordon. When Clint Bowyer hit the wall and the 12th caution of the race came out, Johnson took the lead, battling with Keselowski who was passed by Kevin Harvick as the race drew to a close.
The final results in the AAA Texas 500 were:
1. Jimmie Johnson – #48 Chevrolet
2. Kevin Harvick – #4 Chevrolet
3. Brad Keselowski – #2 Ford
4. Kyle Busch – #18 Toyota
5. Jamie McMurray – #1 Chevrolet
By earning first place in the Geico 500 at Talladega on Sunday, 2012 Sprint Cup champion Brad Keselowski secured his place in the Eliminator Round of the 2014 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series. Matt Kenseth took second place in the action-packed race, with Clint Bowyer, Landon Cassill, and Ryan Newman taking third, fourth and fifth places respectively. Drivers who will not be progressing into the next phase of the championship include Kyle Busch, Kasey Kahne, Jimmie Johnson and Dale Earnhardt Jr.
Brian Vickers was in pole position at the start of a race that saw a number of changes in the lead, ending the race in 20th position. Johnson needed a win to avoid elimination, but although he did well in parts of the race, ended in 24th position. As green flag pit stops began at Lap 103, Kyle Busch was caught up in a wreck at the back of the field, sending him into the pits. He made it back to the track, picking up 4 points, but ending in 40th place.
At one point Danica Patrick was in the lead, but when a caution came out with only 13 laps remaining, Ryan Newman took the lead and held it until another caution flag came out with only five laps to go. As the race came to an end, Earnhardt got caught up in a wreck, and Keselowski took the lead in overtime, holding back the rest of the field for the final three laps and winning the Talladega race.
The eight drivers competing in the Eliminator Round – Joey Logano, Kevin Harvick, Brad Keselowski, Jeff Gordon, Carl Edwards, Denny Hamlin, Ryan Newman and Matt Kenseth – will have their point totals reset to 4,000, while the abovementioned four will have their point totals reset to 2,000 with points gained in the regular season and the Chase being added. The Eliminator Round starts with Goody’s Headache Relief Shot 500 at Martinsville Speedway on October 26, followed by the AAA Texas 500 at Texas Motor Speedway on November 2, and the Quicken Loans Race for Heroes 500 at Phoenix International Raceway on November 9. The final Championship race will be the Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on November 16.
Starting the race from pole position in the Team Penske #2 Ford at Richmond International Raceway on Sunday, Brad Keselowski held onto the lead for all but 17 of the 400 laps of the Sprint Cup Series Federated Auto Parts 400 and crossed the finish line in first place, to claim his fourth win of the season and put him in the number one spot in the Sprint Cup Standings. As the last race for drivers to qualify for the Chase on the new win-and-in rules, fans were no doubt expecting a lot more action, but there appeared to be no serious challenger for Keselowski and the race ended with Jeff Gordon in second place, followed by Clint Bowyer, Jamie McMurray and Kevin Harvick in third, fourth and fifth places respectively.
As the 2012 NASCAR Sprint Cup Champion, Keselowski needed a strong finish at Richmond in order to make the Chase field. As it turned out he finished in 17th place and missed out on the opportunity to defend his title. This time around he is in a good position to reclaim the title. In a post-race interview Keselowski noted that when he pulled into Victory Lane, he had to pinch himself to make sure he wasn’t dreaming, going on to say that “These are nights you don’t forget as a driver and you live for.” Describing the 2013 season as a “bit of a kick in the butt”, Keselowski concedes that it did motivate the Penske Team to “find another level”.
The race was fairly incident free apart from the fact that, with 71 laps of the race remaining, an apparently inebriated fan climbed to the top of the catch fence between the track and the grandstand resulting in a caution while he was removed. Most of the field used the caution as an opportunity for a pit stop, with Keselowski remaining ahead of the pack back into the race.
The Chase for the Sprint Cup standings are:
1. Brad Keselowski #2 – Ford
2. Jeff Gordon #24 – Chevrolet
3. Dale Earnhardt Jr. – #88 Chevrolet
4. Jimmie Johnson – #48 Chevrolet
5. Joey Logano – #22 Ford
6. Kevin Harvick – #4 Chevrolet
7. Carl Edwards – #99 Ford
8. Kyle Busch – #18 Toyota
9. Denny Hamlin – #11 Toyota
10. Kurt Busch – #41 Chevrolet
11. Kasey Kahne – #5 Chevrolet
12. Aric Almirola – #43 Ford
13. AJ Allmendinger – #47 Chevrolet
14. Matt Kenseth – #20 Toyota
15. Greg Biffle – #16 Ford
16. Ryan Newman – #31 Chevrolet
Washed out by rain on Saturday, the Coke Zero 400 at Daytona International Speedway was deferred to Sunday where, nineteen laps into the race a dramatic multiple car crash put several NASCAR Sprint Cup contenders out of the race. The crash reportedly started with Ricky Stenhouse Jr getting loose from the field, resulting in Jeff Gordon moving to the left in an attempt to avoid a crash and connecting with Tony Stewart, causing a chain reaction. While there were no injuries, several cars sustained damage, including those driven by Stenhouse, Gordon, Stewart, Jimmie Johnson, Kevin Harvick, Kyle Larson, Carl Edwards, Trevor Bayne, Marcose Ambrose, Danica Patrick, AJ Allmendinger, Matt Kenseth, Michael Waltrip, Brad Keselowski and Dale Earnhardt Jr.
A caution had been scheduled for the end of lap twenty to allow teams to check wear on their tires, due to green race track conditions. Tiny particles of rubber from tires are left on the track improves the traction on the track surface. When these rubber particles are washed away by heavy rain, the track behaves differently, and is considered ‘green’, until rubber is laid down again.
While some drivers, including Stewart, are of the opinion that Stenhouse triggered the crash, in a post-race interview Stenhouse disagreed, saying he got loose and straightened back out when he got hit in the left rear by Gordon. Cars spun into the grass field separating the front stretch from pit road, where many sustained damage.
First place in the Coke Zero 400 was claimed by Aric Almirola (#43 Ford), followed (in order) by Brian Vickers (#55 Toyota), Kurt Busch (#41 Chevrolet), Casey Mears (#13 Chevrolet) and Austin Dillon (#3 Chevrolet) in the top five. His win puts Aric Almirola in the running for a spot in the Chase for the Sprint Cup.
The top five in the NASCAR Sprint Cup standings (in order) are Jeff Gordon (#24 Chevrolet) with 651 points, Dale Earnhardt Jr. (#88 Chevrolet) with 624 points, Jimmie Johnson (#48 Chevrolet) with 596 points, Brad Keselowski (#2 Ford) with 586 points and Matt Kenseth (#20 Toyota) with 580 points.
As the ninth 2014 Sprint Cup Series race, the 400-lap Toyota Owners 400 at Richmond International Raceway on the weekend was jam-packed with excitement, with the final laps seeing four drivers battling for first place right up to the finish line. Joey Logano took the checkered flag, with Jeff Gordon, Kyle Busch and Brad Keselowski following in second, third and fourth place respectively. Having started in 17th position, Logano led for 46 laps during the race, and was in the position to take advantage of a caution that bunched up the field by passing and moving into first place. In a post-race interview Logano made reference to the new Sprint Cup emphasis on winning, saying “The heck with it! If we crash, we crash! We’re going for wins!”
The Saturday night race started with a first-turn crash, where Clint Bowyer rear-ended Kyle Larson sending him into the wall, and included at least five cars experiencing flash fires thought to have been caused by the new Goodyear rubber compound. Fortunately, no one was hurt, but the safety of Goodyear’s new product is in question. As a NASCAR sponsor since 1954, Goodyear has been the sole tire supplier for the NASCAR Sprint Cup, NASCAR Nationwide, and NASCAR Camping World Truck series since 1997. Acknowledging the problem, Goodyear Racing executive Stu Grant noted that the company would have to work on a solution.
After the race, four time NASCAR champion Jeff Gordon was quoted as saying: “That was one of the wildest races with ten to go I’ve ever seen.” Gordon led 173 laps in the race and finished in second place. Kyle Bush moved from sixteenth place to third in the last eight laps of the race, after failing to lead any laps in the race. Brad Keselowski started in second place, led 114 laps and finished in fourth place.